The game development industry faces an interesting time - while certain sections might stagnate, others are in growth. Easter Europe's growth rate is already higher than in Western Europe - 7%, versus Western Europe's 4%. Countries such as Poland or the Czech Republic are already signified as thriving markets, not to mention Russia’s imposing gaming industry. Yet, there are indications that the best opportunity for evolution might be in other countries within the region.
A combination of internal and external factors, such as investments, a large and diverse pool of talent, an influx of game development jobs, and even a rise in gaming numbers spurred on by the pandemic - has led to some countries being marked as ripe for expansion.
Turkey, Romania, Bulgaria, and Serbia have, due to a combination of mentioned factors, all placed themselves in prime positions for generating new jobs within the gaming industry - video game developer jobs, high paid freelance jobs, outsourcing of game development talent, and ambitious indie startups are some of the possibilities that are brewing in the region.
High-profile game studio sales and state policy make Turkey a hotbed for jobs in gaming
The support of the Turkish state for the gaming industry is already a major boost. The pandemic brought a renewed interest in gaming. The young population infusing enthusiasm for gaming startups. This leads Turkey to a position of great potential and record levels of investment.
The acquisition of several notable Turkish gaming companies by the influential gaming mainstay Zynga has signaled further evolution in Turkey’s already bountiful game development climate. Zynga acquired Gram Games for 250 million USD in 2018. The company then bought a part of Rollic Games for 168 million USD, and finally Peak Games for a whopping 1.8 billion USD. This tally raised the Turkish game industry’s level of investment, from Zynga alone to then-unseen amounts. Zynga is not the only company investing in the gaming industry of Turkey. Chinese giant Tencent purchased the studio Masomo for a respectable 100 million USD.
The state is active in supporting The Turkish game development industry - and the results are now becoming clear. The Game Developers’ Association of Turkey (TOGEDDA) has reported a steep rise in gaming industry export figures - from 400 million USD in 2015 to 1 billion and 50 million USD and rising. The increase in e-sport popularity combined with government-backed support policies have proven critical.
Centralized yet expanding - the Romanian and Bulgarian game development flourish
A growing trend in the region is the steady expansion of gaming jobs, from freelancer to game design or full-time game developing studios, within capital cities in Romania and Bulgaria - but this centralization is now spreading out to smaller towns.
The gaming industry in Romania is on the rise, with a sector turnover increase of 19.2% in 2019 compared to 2017. The latest RDGA report exposes an impressive stat - tax authorities in Romania register the turnover reaching 188.5 million USD. Romania also produces higher software sales (close to $220 million) than many Western European countries. For example, Greece (over $110 million) or Portugal (over $150 million).
Of the 100 or more game dev studios in Romania, many (close to 80%) are in the capital Bucharest. Other cities such as Timișoara and Cluj, or even Craiova or Arad, have also proven their mettle as the “hosts” of burgeoning local gaming studios. While most of these studios feature less than ten employees - over 60% - the national game dev ecosystem is diverse, encompassing a wide variety of positions. Training providers, freelancers, and educational institutions all expand the possibilities within the industry.
Similarly, Bulgaria has also seen an uptick in game dev and gaming related jobs. Ever since the game TZAR kick-started the scene in the ’90s, the growth has been modest yet steady. Most of Bulgaria’s game development jobs are within the capital city Sofia, with Varna and Plovdiv following. The field of game genres developed is diverse: puzzlers, shooters, and card games are all represented.
Though the numbers don’t seem particularly imposing at a glance - 50 studios, half of which have teams of up to 5 people - it’s the potential for further expansion that makes the Bulgarian video game industry the one to watch. Bulgarian game development jobs have yielded growth of almost 4% from 2018 to 2019. According to specific estimations, in four years, the market will approach a user penetration of 15%, up from the previous figure of 12%.
Both Romania and Bulgaria are looking to entice investment and prove themselves as prime game dev destinations. If the stats are any indicator, the game job opportunities there are ripe for expansion.
Pandemic further enhances growth in game development jobs in Serbia
Turkey is not the only country that has benefited from pandemic-induced growth within the gaming sector. Another country that has been rising, as far as the gaming industry potential, is Serbia.
The pandemic has increased player numbers by record amounts, with the video game industry in the country raking in an annual 50 to 100 million USD. Though the times are unstable due to the Coronavirus pandemic, Serbian game studios will have an uninterrupted increase in new employments.
Serbia’s potential has been a hot topic for some time, with the SGA (Serbian Games Association) serving as a kind of herald of new opportunities in gaming jobs, talented outsourced game developer positions, and agile startups and game studios. The diversity, variety of professionals, talented developers, and unmistakable quality have led to Ubisoft branching out into Serbia and considering scaling up employee numbers there.
As noted by SGA’s Nikola Čavić, Serbia has a critical mass of talent, knowledge, and resources to position itself in the center of excellence and creativity in the gaming industry. SGA’s Kristina Janković further emphasizes how Serbia’s already notable positioning on the global market owes much to well-established local companies 3Lateral and Nordeus but is further accented by the presence of big-name companies such as Playrix and Ubisoft.
Similarly to Turkey, Serbia is also capitalizing on E-sports being the fastest-growing segment in the gaming industry. Combined with the pandemic-induced increase in players and the game development scene’s ambitious growth, this creates an opening for further expansion in a market that is ready for the next big evolution.